Monday, March 7, 2011

Protecting Gallery and Artist Brand Starts from the Beginning

by Mark Sublette, President Medicine Man Gallery

Watching or reading any news periodical over the last few weeks one couldn’t help being sucked into Charlie Sheen and John Galliano’s ever faster spinning world of porcelain plates.  When it comes to tabloid fodder of such magnitude its hard not to want to watch as grandma’s good china hits the floor, how else can you explain Sheen’s Guinness record of 1 million new Twitter fans in one day:

Twitter actually may have actually helped Sheen’s brand (assuming he can still have such a thing). There are two reasons: First on Twitter Sheen is limited to 140 characters and no live images, (which seem to be everywhere including Conan O’Brien’s moon.) and second if Sheen can monetize his every growing fan base like Kim Kardashian, he can make a boatload of money for Tiger blood and party time.  After all the alcohol industry is known for big budgets.

Kardashian, one of the best brand builders, makes up to $10,000 per tweet for mentioning an advertiser's product, not bad work for a few seconds of work.   As she approaches the 3 million-follower mark her brand value can only go up.  It’s no wonder Piers Morgan,, another brand suave star, asked Kardashian on his show if she would ask her Twitter fans to follow him, (she did, Oprah deflected the request).  If Morgan had been on his A game he would have waited until after Sheen had set up his Twitter account before he invited him on, but of course this is a great reason to have him back, which he will.

By now your wondering what these ramblings of celebrity filled dribble has to do with my brand in the art world, well I’m getting there, be patient…

John Galliano, the star of Christian Dior, decided drinking, fighting, and screaming anti-Semitic rants was a great way to kick off Oscar weekend.  Dior did not.  They immediately canned the pirate of the runway and are still dealing with brand preservation.  Owning 92% of the Galliano brand, Dior at this point is still embracing the Galliano brand but not the man.  My guess is it’s a wait and see situation, how does Galliano’s alcohol rehab and trial unfold and will his fan base come back on board.  My guess is that Gilt Group will be having lots of sales on Galliano dresses in the near future…

Ok, so I promised this had something to do with art, galleries, and artists… it does I promise.

We in the art world are no different than any other brand be it Sheen or Dior.  Our actions are followed and rewarded.  These include doing good business, having ethics, and treating artists (clients) with respect.   A slow process, but this is how you build a brand, over time with lots of  successful transactions.  It’s much easier to destroy a brand quickly by taking advantage of artists, clients, and fellow colleagues then it is to treat them with respect over a long career. Short-term gains, no matter how large, when obtained at a cost of the brand (reputation) will ultimately destroy the company.  Dior recognized this and immediately fired Galliano even though it also killed a sizable investment in their brand.  Accenture also protected its brand by dropping Tiger for a more likeable kind of animal, a surfing elephant. Both companies understood their brand was important no matter how much money they had spent on developing a now damaged line of advertising; art galleries and artists are no different.

When building a brand you want to be associated with galleries/artists who are liked minded.  An example would be an art magazine, which has quality advertisers and focuses on real content, this is a good place to build your brand.  Steve Jobs at Apple recognizes this and always focuses on quality control.  This is why Apple reviews all the Apps before they are approved for his brand even if it slows the process down, long term gains out weight short term.  No matter how large and powerful your company, protecting brand and reputation should always be at the forefront.  

Google recently was highly criticized for not policing their algorithms with regards to content farms, and spurious links.  Two major companies, which Google deemed as offenders, were J.C. Pennys and Google took action, which affected 12% of all its current searches by implementing what is now called Google Panda.  Many companies that paid lots of money to Google for Sponsor position were affected but Google needed to protect its users and thus its brand.  Never to big to fail.

Deciding where and how to put advertising dollars for brand development is no different.  Does the art market you want to embrace resonate with the story you want to tell?  Unfortunately no magazine, Facebook site, or Twitter account is going to help you if you haven’t nourished the brand from its beginning. 

For artists it means staring with a good choice with regards to selecting a gallery. Ask other artists about the gallery, this includes financial stability, does the prospective gallery have a reputation as a poor, slow or even no pay when it comes to its artists.  If the gallery passes the economic litmus test then find out about the gallery’s other artists.  You want artwork that hangs next to you on the gallery wall to be of quality and add to your own reputation.  It doesn’t do you any good to sell your artwork if you’re the only original artist and your selling by default because of your quality.   Your brand as an artist is not only your painting ability but also the gallery that represents you.

Galleries have the same problem in reverse, they must choose artists that fit together, have original thought, and are quality individuals as well as painters and sculptors.  Gallion’s talents a designer were real but now Dior is paying for the personal side, it’s best to have both talent and personality intact to begin with.

Branding is about associations as much as it is logos.  If your brand is always associated with great art, ethical dealings, and quality content your on the path toward success.  If such components of running an art gallery or being an artist don’t seem important to your branding process then don’t be surprised when your forced to walk the gangplank, because of questionable behavior.
Hold the press this just in, Charlie Sheen just got fired from his job and is now up to 2 million Twitter followers, Pier’s get on the phone. time to build your brand.

No comments:

Post a Comment